Editor’s note, Dec. 14, 2018: Federal prosecutors in New York City have opened an investigation into the finances of President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee, the Wall Street Journal has reported.
Numerous corporate powerhouses and individual business titans — including fossil fuel, financial and food and beverage interests with lucrative business before the federal government — helped fund President Donald Trump’s inauguration, according to a new disclosure filed with the Federal Election Commission.
The donations earned contributors exclusive access during inauguration weekend to Trump, his family, top administration officials and exclusive events conducted on January 20 and January 21 in Washington, D.C.
Top individual donors were led by billionaire casino mogul and top Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, at $5 million, according to an initial Center for Public Integrity review of the Trump inauguration disclosure.
At least six National Football League franchise owners each gave Trump’s inaugural committee $1 million: Dan Snyder of the Washington Redskins, Shahid R. Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Stan Kroenke of the Los Angeles Rams, Robert McNair of the Houston Texans, Woody Johnson of the New York Jets and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots through his holding company, Kraft Group LLC. (Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-owner Edward Glazer gave $250,000, and the NFL’s marketing and promotions arm, NFL Ventures LP, added $100,000.)
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones also appears to have given $1 million — in a most roundabout fashion. The Trump inauguration disclosure lists “Glenstone Limited Partnership” of Texas as a $1 million donor. State corporate records list a “Glenstone I Limited Partnership.” This entity has one director: Glenstone Corporation, which lists “Jerral W. Jones” as its president. All Glenstone entities share the same address — 1 Cowboys Way.
Other Trump inauguration donors in the million-dollar club are Russian-American businessman Alexander Shustorovich, hedge fund honcho Robert Mercer, investor Charles Schwab, Chicago Cubs owner and one-time Trump foe Marlene Ricketts, investor and Trump economic adviser Andy Beal, coal baron Christopher Cline, businessman Hushang Ansary, Shahla Ansary, hedge fund executive Paul Singer, self-storage forture heir Bradley Wayne Hughes Jr., coal executive J. Clifford Forrest, billionaire founder of GoDaddy.com Bob Parsons, investor Stephen A. Cohen, Claudine Revere, philanthropist Jeanne Sorensen Siegel, financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald Chairman Howard Lutnick and Scott Bessent, who for several years oversaw liberal megadonor George Soros’ personal fortune. The Wall Street Journal in 2000 reported that the Republican National Committee rejected a $250,000 contribution from Shustorovich, citing the businessman’s ties to state-owned Russian companies.
R.W. Habboush, an international investor who this year reportedly has pressed Trump officials to lift sanctions against Venezuela, gave $666,000.
Billionaire Texan Kelcy Warren, whose company is building the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline for which the Trump administration in February gave final approval, sent $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration committee in December. Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder who spoke at the Republican National Convention, added $100,000.
At the $1 million level, Trump’s roster of top inaugural donors include powerful and well-known companies such as tobacco company Reynolds American, airline and defense company Boeing, AT&T, the Madison Square Garden Company, online payment company Allied Wallet, international holding company Access Industries, ethanol producer Green Plains and MacNeil Automotive Products Ltd., maker of WeatherTech floor mats. Conservative nonprofit advocacy group American Action Network, which has deep financial ties to the health and pharmaceutical industries, also gave $1 million.
The next most-generous companies listed are Quicken Loans ($750,000), Wynn Resorts ($729,217), Chevron ($525,000), American Financial Group ($500,000), Intel ($500,000) JPMorgan Chase and Co. ($500,000), Citgo Petroleum ($500,000), oil comapny BP Corporation of North America ($500,000), casino developer and Ultimate Fighting Championship parent Fertitta Entertainment ($500,000), Manhattan real estate investment firm Tahl Propp ($500,000) and the MacAndrews and Forbes Group ($500,000), which owns military contractor AM General, among other companies.
And other six-figure contributors include: General Motors ($498,650), Impala Asset Management ($325,000), Coca-Cola ($300,638), Murray Energy Corporation ($300,000), real estate investment firm The Witkoff Group ($300,000), Pilot Travel Centers LLC ($300,000), Google (285,000), Ford Motor Company ($250,000), Liberty Media Corporation ($250,000), Charter Communications ($250,000), Nextera Energy ($250,000), Pepsi ($250,000), Comcast Corp. ($250,000), United Parcel Service ($250,000), IBC Bank ($250,000) healthcare company Centene ($250,000), engineering outfit Fluor Corporation ($250,000) Florida retirement mecca The Villages ($250,000), beer giant Anheuser Busch ($250,000), the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians ($250,000), power and coal plant developer White Stallion Energy LLC ($175,000), Wal-Mart ($150,000), Consol Energy Inc. ($150,000) and dental company Managed Care of North America ($135,000).
Health insurers Anthem, MetLife and The Travelers Indemnity Company each contributed $100,000. Also giving $100,000: Verizon, Qualcomm, energy giant Southern Co., oil company Valero, Anadarko Petroleum, the United States Sugar Corporation, defense contractor Northrop Grumman, food company Chiquita Brands and — play ball! — the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, the FEC disclosure indicates. Visa and accounting firm Ernst & Young each chipped in $50,000.
“The amount of funds raised for the inaugural celebration allowed the President to give the American people, those both at home and visiting Washington, a chance to experience the incredible moment in our democracy where we witness the peaceful transition of power, a cornerstone of American democracy,” inauguration committee Chairman Tom Barrack said in a statement.
Other less-than-household names nevertheless also offered up significant cash.
MILLField Global Strategies, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that advertises “representing an international array of private and public entities to the world’s most influential governments and sectors,” gave Trump’s inaugural committee $125,000.
Ryan LLC, a Dallas-based tax firm that boasts of “liberating our clients from the burden of being overtaxed,” gave more than twice that — $275,000.
Public relations firm Off the Record Strategies, led by George W. Bush White House alumnus Mark Pfeifle, sent an on-the-record $50,000 to the Trump inauguration.
Frog Fitness Inc. of Texas, which claims to have developed the “single most effective total body training device ever invented,” donated $25,000. So, too, did Apollo Education Group, which owns the for-profit University of Phoenix, payday lender Checks Into Cash Inc. the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and law and lobbying firm Mintz Levin.
Also contributing $25,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee on Jan. 6 was the Affleck-Middleton Project, a production company Oscar Award-winning actor and producer Casey Affleck formed in 2014 with John Powers Middleton.
Earlier this year, after the Center for Public Integrity reported that the Affleck-Middleton Project has contributed $5,000 to Trump’s presidential transition effort, Affleck told BuzzFeed he was “appalled.”
Affleck added that he had “no knowledge of it, was never asked, and never would have authorized it. I will get to the bottom of it. The policies of the Trump administration, and the values they represent, are antithetical to everything I believe in.”
Many of these corporate donors regularly lobby the federal government or are otherwise affected by decisions the federal government makes on a wide range of issues, from taxes and health care to immigration policy and military purchasing. Trump in November defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in part on an anti-establishment platform peppered with slogans such as “drain the swamp.”
In all, Trump’s inaugural committee raised $106.7 million — about twice what President Barack Obama’s committee raised in 2009 to mark the incoming Democrat’s first inauguration. Trump put few limitations — for one, it capped corporate contributions at $1 million — on who could give to his inaugural committee and how much.
Obama’s first inauguration committee strictly limited money from lobbyist and corporate sources and prohibited donations greater than $50,000. By his second inauguration, Obama had loosened some restrictions, allowing corporate interests to play a larger role.
President George W. Bush capped the amount of money donors could give to his two inaugurations at $100,000 in 2001 and $250,000 in 2005.
By federal law, presidential inauguration committees aren’t required to file detailed financial disclosures with the FEC until 90 days of an inauguration, meaning Trump’s committee wasn’t required to disclose its bankrollers until now.
When Trump’s committee did, officials hand delivered the document to the FEC’s office in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
The FEC posted the 508-page document Wednesday morning — a scanned paper document, as opposed to the easily searchable, electronic financial disclosures commonly submitted by most federal candidates, including Trump’s own presidential committee.
A few of the big-dollar donors listed were obscure limited liability companies, the leaders of which weren’t easily deciphered.
One such Trump inauguration donor, HFNWA LLC of Chattanooga, Tennessee, gave $1 million. The Center for Public Integrity previously reported that HFNWA LLC gave Democratic super PAC Senate Majority PAC $1 million in 2014. HFNWA LLC has addresses in Arkansas and Washington, D.C., and is managed, according to Arkansas Secretary of State records, by Franklin L. Haney, a Democratic political patron and real estate mogul.
“LMC IP” also gave Trump’s transition $1 million. Its listed address in Bethesda, Maryland, is the same as the address for Lockheed Martin, the massive defense contractor.
An California-based entity called the “Papa Doug Trust” likewise gave $1 million. This trust, the San Diego Reader reported in 2012, is tied to Douglas F. Manchester, a hotel developer and former publisher of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Trump’s inauguration committee filing did not include information on how it spent the money it raised. Nor did it immediately indicate, as it promised it would, the names of charities to which it would give surplus money.
Federal law also requires inaugural donors who lobby the federal government to file separate disclosures in January — if they made inaugural donations during 2016.
Some indeed did. And a Center for Public Integrity’s review of these documents indicated that Pfizer Inc. and Dow Chemical Co. were among the corporate early birds, each making $1 million contributions to Trump’s inaugural committee in December 2016.
According to inauguration donor packages previously obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, donors in the “$1,000,000+” tier were to receive four tickets to a “leadership luncheon” billed as “an exclusive event with select Cabinet appointees and House and Senate leadership to honor our most generous inaugural supporters.”
Donors in the $500,000 tiers also got access to a dinner with Pence and his wife, a candlelight dinner with Trump and Pence, and other festivities. Donors in lower tiers received more limited ticket packages to inaugural events.
Microsoft Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Amgen Inc. and Altria Client Services LLC reported giving $500,000 each, a contribution that would have earned tickets to a similar list of events top-tier donors received.
According to Microsoft’s report, half its contribution was in cash and half in “in-kind contribution, products and services.”
Exxon Mobil Corp. reported making its contribution on Dec. 19, the week after Trump announced he would nominate Rex Tillerson, the company’s chairman and CEO, as secretary of state. The U.S. Senate confirmed Tillerson this year.
Carrie Levine, Chris Zubak-Skees and Rachel Wilson contributed to this report
Help support this work
Public Integrity doesn’t have paywalls and doesn’t accept advertising so that our investigative reporting can have the widest possible impact on addressing inequality in the U.S. Our work is possible thanks to support from people like you.